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Senators continue long trip in Florida

by John Kreiser /

SENATORS (19-12-6) at PANTHERS (12-20-6)


Last 10: Ottawa 6-4-0; Florida 5-5-0

Season series: The Ottawa Senators go for a sweep of the three-game series against the Florida Panthers, a team they've beaten in 11 of their past 12 meetings. Ottawa swept a home-and-home series in the first week of the season.

Big story: The Senators get full marks for their performance thus far this season -- they're a solid sixth in the Eastern Conference despite a list of injuries that would have destroyed a lesser team. But as they prepare for the third game of a seven-game trip, they starting to see teams creeping up on them -- the New York Rangers and New York Islanders are just two points behind them -- and beating the Eastern Conference's worst team is a must after losses in Boston and Buffalo.

Team Scope:

Senators: With another tough week on the road ahead of them, the Senators poised to get some reinforcements. Goaltender Craig Anderson, who was nothing short of brilliant in the 15 games he played before suffering a high ankle sprain, should be ready to go against Florida.

Anderson's return would be a shot in the arm for an overachieving team that's dropped three in a row.

"I personally believe that it's even more important now to stay upbeat, stay confident in what we're doing. I don't think we're that far off at all because it's so close as it is in the League," captain Daniel Alfredsson said after Friday's 4-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres. "We're not the only team that's gone through this and we're not going to be the last one either. We'll find a way to weather through this."

Panthers: Nothing went right in the first two periods against the Washington Capitals on Saturday night, and the Panthers' three-goal third period was only good enough to turn a 4-0 deficit into a disappointing 4-3 loss that ended Florida's three-game winning streak.

The NHL's worst penalty-killing team allowed the League's top power play to score three times. Even coach Kevin Dineen had a tough night -- he failed to put a player in the box to serve Eric Gudbranson's five-minute major before the time expired, meaning the Panthers had to continue playing a man down until the next whistle. Unfortunately for the Panthers, that whistle came when Quinton Howden was called for hooking -- a penalty that led to Mike Ribeiro's power-play goal in the first minute of the second period.

"I made a huge mistake," Dineen said. "It gets hung on me. Really, the game gets hung on me. I didn't put a guy in the penalty box, the penalty expires, we have nobody to come out of the box, so we're still short and we ended up taking another one, [and] they scored one at the beginning of the second. Bad coaching error by me."

Who's hot: Ottawa rookie Mika Zibanejad has six assists in his past five games. … Tomas Kopecky scored twice against Washington and has three goals in his past two games to take the team lead with 15.

Injury report: Even if Anderson can play, the Senators are still without their top defenseman, Erik Karlsson (Achilles) and top-line forwards Milan Michalek (knee) and Jason Spezza (back). … The Panthers have been decimated with injuries, including center Stephen Weiss (wrist surgery) and forward Kris Versteeg (knee), both of whom are gone for the season. They're also missing defensemen Ed Jovanovski (hip surgery) and Mike Weaver (knee), as well as goaltender Jose Theodore (groin).

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